The latest player to enter the gigabit arena is PocketiNet Communications – and the company isn’t quite like any other service provider that has launched gigabit service. The company operates in Tier 3 markets in the northwest, including its home market of Walla Walla, Washington – but unlike other gigabit providers serving rural areas, it isn’t the incumbent carrier, which means it doesn’t receive Universal Service funding.
“We are not government funded,” explained PocketiNet CEO and President Todd Brandenburg in an interview. “We have private sector financing through a local bank. We are having to make it work when it comes to returning our investment.”
When it initially enters a market, PocketiNet typically focuses on providing broadband to businesses and school districts, but the company also has offered broadband to residences using VDSL. To support its VDSL deployments, the company leases unbundled copper from the incumbent carrier, connecting to the carrier at a fiber-fed neighborhood node.
In launching residential gigabit service, PocketiNet will use an approach pioneered by Google Fiber but also used by other carriers launching gigabit service: The company will launch service initially in areas where the greatest percentage of residents express an interest in receiving gigabit service.
“If Joe, let’s say, is very interested to get fiber to his neighborhood, he is one vote,” explained Brandenburg. “But if he wants to advocate to get other people on board, he’ll have to get ground-based support within the neighborhood. . . The community will tell us where the demand is.”
Additionally PocketiNet has committed to providing a Wi-Fi hotspot zone in downtown Walla Walla with limited free service for guests in the community.
PocketiNet is offering an introductory price of $119.95 monthly for service at speeds of 1 Gbps downstream/ 100 Mbps upstream when sold on a stand-alone basis. The service also will be available as part of a triple-play bundle that includes video and voice service for $169.95 a month. Additionally customers will have the option of purchasing stand-alone Internet service at speeds of 100/30 Mbps for an introductory price of $59.95 months.
Brandenburg anticipates that PocketiNet will target neighborhoods where a minimum of 30% to 35% of residents have said they want service.
Serving customers over its own infrastructure will boost PocketiNet’s margins, Brandenburg said – in part because higher speeds will command higher prices and in part because higher-speed service also can support additional services such as home automation and security that are in PocketiNet’s portfolio.
Eventually Brandenburg expects to bring gigabit service to other parts of PocketiNet’s service territory – and possibly beyond. Noting the increase in communities issuing requests for proposal for gigabit service, Brandenburg said “that’s very interesting demand that we’ll have to look at at some point in time.”
PocketiNet’s broadband equipment supplier is Huawei, Brandenburg said.